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Lecture

Pojman (Lecture Schemata 5)

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Department
Philosophy
Course
PHIL 1200
Professor
David Matheson
Semester
Winter

Description
5   Pojman:  Making  the  transcendent  matter     Conditions  for  something  to  be  a  meaning-­‐maker     Meeting  the  conditions:  The  importance  of  the  transcendent     Reasonable  faith?  Practical  reasons  for  belief     Recall  that  Schopenhauer  provided  a  reason  (viz.,  the  problem  of  evil)  to  accept  Premise  2   of  the  Nihilist's  Worry.  Since,  like  Nagel,  he  also  thought  there  was  good  reason  to  accept   Premise  3  of  the  Nihilist's  Worry,  he  ended  up  embracing  nihilism.     In  his  contribution,  Louis  P.  Pojman  provides  a  reason  to  accept  Premise  3  of  the  Nihilist's   Worry  and  reject  Premise  2  of  the  argument.  He  wants  to  convince  us  that  the  meaning  of   life  must  be  grounded  in  a  transcendent  meaning  of  life.     Pojman  states  a  number  of  theses  (27-­‐30)  that  he  thinks  follow  from  a  transcendentalist   world-­‐view  according  to  which  there  is  a  personal,  all-­‐good,  all-­‐knowing,  all-­‐powerful   transcendent  being,  i.e.  from  a  world-­‐view  that  postulates  the  existence  of  God  as  conceived   in  traditional  monotheistic  religions.       He  thinks  that  these  theses  are  desirable  in  the  sense  that  together  they  make  sense  of  how   there  can  be  a  meaning  of  life.  And  he  argues,  in  effect,  that  a  transcendentalist  perspective   is  the  only  perspective  that  can  assure  us  of  these  theses.     In  detailing  these  theses,  Pojman  can  be  viewed  as  suggesting  a  number  conditions  that   something  must  meet  in  order  to  count  as  making  life  worth  living  (provided  our  lives  are   related  to  it  in  the  right  way);  in  other  words,  we  can  view  Pojman  as  suggesting  a  number   of  conditions  that  something  must  meet  in  order  to  count  as  what  we  might  call  a  "meaning   maker"  for  life.  (Pojman  details  eight  theses,  but  some  of  these  seem  just  to  be  variants  of   each  other  or  of  a  central  idea,  so  we'll  consider  these  eight  theses  as  suggesting  four  main   conditions  on  something's  qualifying  as  a  meaning-­‐maker  for  life.)     Pojman's  conditions  for  something  to  count  as  a  meaning-­‐maker  for  life:     1.  ______________________________________________________________________________________________________     ________________________________________________________________________________________________________.   (Cf.  Pojman's  first  through  third  theses,  27-­‐28,  and  his  sixth  thesis,  29.)     If  we  can’t  see  the  universe  as  having  values,  then  the  question  of  whether  life  is  worth   living  (i.e.  whether  it’s  better  that  life  be  lived  than  not)  will  either  have  to  be  given  a   negative  answer  (objectively  speaking)  or  treated  as  a  nonsensical  question.     2.  _____________________________________________________________________________________________________.   (Cf.  the  fourth  thesis  and  the  fifth  thesis,  28-­‐29.)     2   It's  difficult  to  see  how  being  bad  is  consistent  with  living  a  meaningful  life-­‐-­‐a  life  that  has   an  overall  positive  worth.  So  if  we  have  no  reason  to  be  good,  and  hence  to  avoid  being  bad,   it’s  difficult  to  see  any  reason  for  thinking  that  our  life  has  a  meaning.     3.  ______________________________________________________________________________________________________     ________________________________________________________________________________________________________.   (Cf.  the  seventh  thesis,  29.)     None  of  us  is  perfect,  so  we’ve  all  made  mistakes  in  the  past,  to  varying  degrees  of   seriousness.  If  our  lives  are  to  have  a  meaning,  they  must  be  capable  of  having  a  meaning   despite  the  fact  that  we’ve  made  mistakes  in  the  past.  If  we  can’t  see  how  this  is  possible,   we’ll  be  overwhelmed  by  our  past  mistakes  and  tempted  to  think  that  our  lives  can’t   therefore  have  a  meaning.  Whatever  makes  our  lives  worth  living,  then,  should  provide  us   with  some  reason  for  not  being  so  overwhelmed  by  our  past  mistakes.     4.  ______________________________________________________________________________________________________     own death. ________________________________________________________________________________________________________.   (Cf.  the  eighth  thesis,  29.)     We’re  all  mortal,  so  we’re  all  going  to  face  death  at  some  point.  If  death  somehow  robbed   our  lives  of  any  meaning,  the  prospect  of  our  own  death  would  give  us  reason  to  be   discouraged  about  the  possibility  of  a  meaning  of  life.  Whatever  makes  our  lives  worth   living,  then,  should  provide  us  with  reason  to  think  that  death  does  not  render  life  of  no   real  value,  and  hence  reason  not  to  be  discouraged  by  the  prospect  of  our  own  death.     Pojman's  central  claim,  then,  is  in  effect  this:  nothing  in  the  immanent  realm-­‐-­‐nothing   purely  physical,  or  that  consists  merely  of  "a  collocation  of  particles  in  motion"  (27),  could   possibly  meet  these  conditions.  Only  a  transcendent  being  like  God,  as  traditionally   conceived  in  monotheistic  religions,  could  meet  them.       If  that's  right,  then  there  can  be  no  immanent  meaning  of  life,  and  Premise  3  of  the  Nihilist's   Worry  is  correct.  But  there  can  still  be  a  transcendent  meaning  of  life-­‐-­‐and  hence  we  can   reasonably  escape  nihilism  by  rejecting  Premise  2  of  the  Nihilist's  Worry-­‐-­‐provided  we   grant  that  there  is  in  fact  a  transcendent  being  like  God  who  can  meet  all  of  these   conditions.       But,  of  course,  Pojman  so  far  hasn't  provided  us  with  any  reason  to  grant  that  there  is  such   a  being.  Can  he  give  us  such  a  reason?     He  thinks  he  can,  though  he  doesn't  think  that  this  reason  will  amount  to  providing  us  with   knowledge  of  the  existence  of  God.    Here's  what  Pojman  says:     3   [W]e  probably  do  not  know  if  theism,  let  alone  our
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